On Friday, February 6, the Italian government passed a temporary decree law drafted to prohibit the removal of food and hydration from vulnerable patients that, in particular, would prevent Eluana Englaro from being dehydrated to death. The decree has been approved by all necessary legislative bodies, however, Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic is refusing to sign off on the decree which would save Eluana’s life.
This declaration comes on the heels of Eluana’s move to a nursing clinic so that her food and hydration could be removed, causing her death by terminal thirst. Doctors say that the dehydration process will take two or more weeks. Eluana’s situation has frequently been compared to that of my sister Terri’s—in fact, she is being described as, “Italy’s, Terri Schiavo.”
Eluana has been receiving food and water via a feeding tube since a 1992 car crash that left her with a profound brain injury and—as was the case with my sister—Eluana is not brain dead, although both she and Terri are often described as such in the media. She merely suffers from a disability. Her father, Beppino Englaro, has been seeking to end her life for nearly 10 years. A court ruling in July 2008 gave permission for the father to remove his daughter’s feeding tube.
Just as in Terri’s situation, Eluana is not dying and only needs food and water and the care of family or others to live. But despite the appeals and numerous obstacles trying to prevent the father from carrying out the court order, this most recent event will clear the way for Eluana’s feeding to stop and she will begin to experience an inhumane and unthinkable death by dehydration and starvation. In fact, as far as we know, this painful and degrading process has already begun.
The coverage of Eluana’s situation by American media has been abysmal. Up to this point the mainstream media have chosen not to report much of what has been taking place since the court ruling. They have been suspiciously (and, perhaps, conveniently) silent about how the Italian people, government, and doctors have been rallying around Eluana trying to stop her death from taking place. (The Italian media, by contrast, has reported the story in a manner consistent with journalistic ethics—that is to say, fairly.)
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